Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bringing Out the Untold Stories

With Teresa and Magdalena

     No one can describe the suffering of another, but a voice can share the images, smells, sounds, and textures of a certain place, time, and situation. The connection is fragile since it takes a listener to complete the circle, from start to finish and many times over. Like the hummingbird and the flower, or the river and the parting earth, there is harmony when connections are melded. Thus, stories are told and their secret unfurled so that whoever listens takes their essence and safeguards its gifts. Humans are not only storytellers but story keepers as well.
     When people suffer, they huddle together and try to comfort each other. Somehow, their embrace and gentle caressing of their loved ones also serves to console themselves. Their lives are abruptly changed and whatever belief system they held is suspended, just like everything else. Fear and anxiety permeates the daily existence, emotional pain from losing family members is a constant burden, and not knowing what tomorrow may bring, the uncertainty and doubt, kills every chance for a glimmer of hope.  Poverty itself can kill the human spirit and extreme poverty sucks the life of a human body. 
     The families’ stories of those that I’ve met in Santa Cruz del K’iché are full of sorrow and suffering. Far from the eternal spring that is used to describe the country of Guatemala (“el país de la eternal primavera”), it is rather a land of stark contrast in its people, culture, and language.  Over half of the population lives in poverty and most are members of the indigenous communities. Almost 50 percent of Guatemalans belong to an indigenous group. Tragic circumstances have caused the deaths and ruin of many communities, from natural disasters to horrific wars and repressive dictatorships. Yet, there are so many stories of survival and transcendence, as well as re-births in everything from spiritual awakenings to ideas of solidarity and perseverance. These are the stories that matter the most, the ones that will outlast the tragedies and sufferings, and bring a new dawn to the next generation and the ones that follow. These are the untold stories in search of the listener who holds the keys to its secrets.
La Nueva Escuelita – Despertando Conciencia

Children in El K'iché
     In an earlier blog posting, I wrote about Paulina Yus Lopes, the spiritual leader and community organizer who works with members of K’iché communities. One of their projects is the “Escuelita,” a two-week program for children that includes a specialized curriculum aimed at bringing families and communities together by educating their children about their innermost, invaluable aspects of their culture – their spirituality, language, and values.    
The Upcoming Trip
     The purpose of my next trip to El K’iche and surrounding communities is to document the work of families as they bring their efforts and resources together to bring more solidarity to their community. Their school program lasts for a brief two weeks, but their goal and direction are intended to leave a lasting impression. The curriculum includes teachings of the Mayan culture that will help children and their families become more solidly grounded in their daily existence as a community with strong and enduring ties to the culture and language of their ancestors. Children are viewed as the hope for the future, and their education inclusive of the traditions of their culture is paramount, not only to enrich their lives and to solidify communal and family ties, but as part of the healing process. The lengthy suffering and residual wounds from the impact of a torturous civil war have rooted a kind of new vision and hope for which the Nueva Escuelita plays a central role.
     As part of the documentation, I will film and photograph the children and their families, and bring back products of their work or artifacts such as written stories, drawings, and paintings. I will share these photo and video representations through postings in social networking venues. I will display the children’s expressions via their artistic works in as many different formats as possible, including the social networking forms.
     One of the most important aspects of this project is to educate others about the lives of the children and their families. However, it’s also important for the communities in El K’iché to learn about the work of our communities in the Rio Grande Valley. Indeed, we have commonalities as well as differences, and so much to learn about each other.  Thus, I will make a formal request to local RGV schools to allow me to share the documentation and artifacts with school children.  In so doing, I will ask children to create their own written and artistic expressions that I can take back to the children of the Escuelita, thereby creating an educational channel of cultural exchange.
     In terms of Mayan spirituality, every human being is not only part of the universe but he/she is the universe. Indeed, what I hope to achieve is to learn about the K’iché universe and share its abundance with others. It’s an appropriate metaphor when we consider that we have so many universes to discover and learn about here on earth, in the same continent that we inhabit.

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